Your husband has always been a couch potato, but out of nowhere, he’s extremely committed to being a marathon runner. Or maybe, your wife has typically been a homebody but has lately decided to make an effort to be a social butterfly. These changes have you wondering what entity took over the person you thought you married.
Sudden changes in your spouse’s behavior can be confusing and create feelings of unease or stress in the relationship. You’ve spent years getting comfortable with this person’s identity, so a sudden shift can trigger fears of abandonment, sending all of your defense mechanisms into overdrive. However, these changes may not always be indicative of a bad thing or a huge problem. Here are 5 steps to take if your spouse changes overnight.
5 steps to take if your spouse changes overnight:
1. Reflect and Observe:
What seems like an overnight change in your spouse might have been a few months in the making. Try to think about the little clues that have been building over time that may have led to your spouse’s personality change. As you reflect on these changes, take the time to observe how your spouse is currently acting and if it’s in line with their erratic changes or if they have settled back to their norm. Overnight changes seldom align with long-term and sustainable new identities.
During this time, try not to jump to any conclusions about what your partner is doing or why they have changed. Jumping to conclusions is your brain’s way of trying to gain some control over the situation. However, this information is faulty and can lead you to some poor, inaccurate assumptions. You may fear that your spouse has started an affair, is planning to divorce you, or is otherwise trying to damage or end your relationship. However, if you’re incorrect in your assumptions, you might begin a painful cycle of pushing your spouse away when they weren’t intending to leave you.
Instead of jumping to conclusions, take note of what those fears are communicating to you about your feelings about the relationship. Have you been feeling unworthy or unwanted in the relationship? Are you wishing for something serious to happen? These thoughts and feelings can give you some new insights into your relationship.
2. Be Honest:
When you decide to talk to your partner about their sudden change, be honest about how the change is affecting you. Holding back from your partner will not help them understand how their changes are impacting your relationship.
If the change is affecting the family as a whole, address some of the ways your children have noticed your spouse’s new habits or personality. Even positive lifestyle changes in your partner may trigger some fears in you. Be honest with your spouse and share your fears about what their changes will mean for you.
3. Be Curious:
During your conversation with your spouse, be open-minded and curious as they explain why they’ve changed recently. Your spouse might take this time to address some of their personal fears or shortcomings, or they might deny that changes are taking place at all. Reiterate to them that you have noticed some differences and that you are not having the conversation to judge them. You are merely seeking to understand.
During this conversation, you may have to be open to the possibility of hearing that your spouse is making these changes due to something that has been happening in the marriage, such as a slowed-down sex life or lack of shared interests. Try not to take these comments personally. Redirect the conversation and ask your spouse about the changes they’d like to see in the marriage as a whole, and how they’d like to go about them.
4. Offer Support:
The conversation with your spouse can be a very vulnerable moment, particularly if their changes are coming from a place of dissatisfaction with one’s self. If your spouse has embarked on an aggressive weight loss journey, for example, they might feel sensitive or embarrassed about sharing that side of themselves with you. Be a partner to your partner. Remind them that you are there to be as helpful and supportive as you can as they navigate their current changes.
If your spouse has been candid about the fact that they are trying to find outlets to cope with changes in the marriage, you might be quick to want to put your guard up and defend yourself. It can be hurtful to hear, which may naturally cause you to want to protect yourself. Try as hard as you can to resist this urge. If the conversation heads in this direction, reiterate your support to your partner and your commitment to the marriage. Remaining calm and warm towards your partner can offer your partner reassurance in your bond, which can buy a lot of goodwill in repairing your relationship.
5. Go to Therapy:
If this conversation with your spouse ends in confrontation or you continue to feel unresolved tension, it might be a good idea to consult with a therapist. The therapist’s job is to help both parties communicate their emotions and encourage each partner to turn towards the other for support and understanding. Marriages will naturally change, and it can be helpful to have an outside party who does not have the lived experience with your changes over time.
If your spouse seemingly changes overnight, do not panic. You have not completely lost your spouse. By having an honest, vulnerable conversation with them where you seek to understand the change, you can become comfortable with your spouse’s new identity. If you really hate their new habits, or you both cannot come to an understanding of these new behaviors, seeking the help of a licensed couples therapist can help you find some common ground to strengthen the relationship.